We live in an anxious, depressed age. Addictions spring from the need for quick fixes and no distress. Are we making things worse with the therapies we offer in addiction treatment programs?
Mental illness has always been part of the human experience. Life is, and has always been, both worrisome and unpredictable. As long as we can't control our experience, we'll lean on abusive substances and mental quirks to get us through the day.
But research suggests that we just might be more worried and more depressed than we've ever been before. And we're less inclined to accept meaningful solutions to those problems. Until the addiction field makes the final shift to true behavioral change, our community is unlikely to heal.
Exploring Depression and Anxiety
Terrorist attacks, gang activity, child abuse… open up your smartphone to check out the news, and you'll see one devastating headline after another. Combine that stress with genetics, and you have a perfect recipe for mental health concerns. Many of us are dealing with these issues.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, about 18 percent of the American population has an anxiety disorder, and depression is the top cause of disability worldwide.
It's easy enough to blame our smartphones for this boost nervousness and sadness, and experts have linked our compulsive phone use with all sorts of health issues, including separation anxiety and tendonitis.
But what our culture of connectedness really does is encourage a quick fix.
Feeling anxious in a crowd, pick up your phone and connect with your friends.
Worried about what to wear,open a shopping app and your purchase will appear the next day.
Overwhelmed with sadness,find the nearest bar on your map app on your phone.
Bored with your weekend, hop on an app and connect with a drug dealer.
The solution to any form of temporary discomfort is right there at your fingertips. And if our habits lead to addictions, traditional treatment solutions may not help.
Traditional Models Let Us Down
The first studies on addiction were conducted in the 1870s, and that work has influenced how we address substance abuse problems.
Researchers tell us how drugs change the way brain cells work, and their studies outline how our behavior changes because of cell damage.
Treatment aims to reverse that chemical damage, and often, the models take a quick-fix approach. We:
Use drugs to smooth out rough brain cells.
Push for rapid behavior change, even when people aren't ready to shift gears.
Take a hard look at trauma, even if it means re-traumatizing victims.
Demand total abstinence, even when that leads to dropout.
Just as our society demands a quick fix and a rapid resolution, we strive to offer that in therapy. And sometimes, that does more harm than good.
What Else Can We Try?
Real recovery comes with both distress tolerance and self-soothing skills. We need to learn how to accept some of the pain and discomfort of life, and we must learn how to ease our worried minds without leaning on drugs or alcohol.
Addiction experts can do that by adding a few elements outside of the mainstream to their treatment protocols.
Yoga, for example, is a well-known distress-tolerance tool. While people who practice tend to begin with the need for exercise, they stick with it because of everything else it can do.
Harvard Medical School explains that people who do yoga tend to:
Exercise.About 75 percent of them participate in other athletic activities outside of yoga.
Eat healthy. Of those who begin yoga practice, 40 percent eat healthier.
Feel relaxed. Breathwork and exercise done in class tend to bring relaxation that persists throughout the day.
Stay connected. Yoga teachers tend to incorporate lessons about truthfulness, kindness to others, and self-discipline.
In a way, yoga works like a ripple in a pond. In an addiction treatment program, someone might use yoga to soothe tight muscles and sore joints. But the lessons in the program could help that same person ease stress, find connections, and improve diet and physical activity levels. All could help put that person on a path to persistent sobriety.
Unlike traditional forms of treatment, including medications, people who do yoga tend to stick with the practice. They do so, according to the University of Connecticut, due to feelings of community and self-discovery. They feel better within, and that keeps them coming back.
Imagine offering people a solution that deepens their connections with the body and the community. And it's a therapy they like so much that they don't want to give it up.
These are the solutions we need to help our community during this troubled, anxious time. And they're just the sort of options we offer. For more information, call us at 888-877-7326.
Facts and Statistics. Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
The Benefits of a Short Attention Span. (December 2018). The Atlantic.
Drug Abuse Research in Historical Perspective. (1996). Institute of Medicine Committee on Opportunities in Drug Abuse Research.
New Survey Reveals the Rapid Rise of Yoga and Why Some People Still Haven't Tried it Yet. (June 2016). Harvard Medical School.
From Resolution to Ritual: Why People Start and Stick With Yoga. (January 2015). University of Connecticut.